Monday, November 16, 2009

syrups and extracts

Am I the only one who misses Hershey's syrup? And am I the only one who has had serious sticker shock when pricing the organic chocolate syrups?

I made some chocolate syrup the other day, and it got me thinking about the other things I make at home that aren't big drains on our grocery budget, but are still organic and simple.

I'm listing three recipes here. The first is for simple syrup, with which you can make just about any flavor of syrup, the next is for chocolate syrup, and the last is for vanilla extract.

Simple Syrup
As the name implies, simple syrup is very simple.

All you have to do is mix together equal parts sugar and hot water. I've used honey but honestly, it's not the same.

You can make any number of flavored syrups by mixing a little flavored extract into the simple syrup to taste. You can try vanilla syrup using the vanilla extract recipe below or peruse the extracts next time you grocery shop and plan a syrup you like. We sometimes like peppermint syrup for hot chocolates, almond syrup for Italian sodas (just mix your flavored syrup with sparkling water), or hazelnut syrup for coffees.

Then there's always...

Chocolate Syrup

Mix organic cocoa powder into your simple syrup to taste. It will be a little hard to mix in at first, as cocoa powder is so light it has a tendency to sit on top of the liquid. This is normal and as you stir, it will gradually mix together. Whisking with a fork helps.

The key to a good chocolate syrup is a true 50/50 ratio in your simple syrup. If you try to cut back the sugar in your simple syrup, you'll end up with a sweet chocolatey liquid, but it won't be thick and syrupy.

Vanilla Extract
If you'd like to try your hand at an extract, I think vanilla is about as easy as it gets.

Whole vanilla beans
Rum or Vodka, 80-proof (not diluted)

I purchased my vanilla beans on eBay and ended up with about 500 beans for around $35. A quick search on eBay just now gave me the Vanilla Products USA eBay store to give you as an example.

When buying vanilla beans for extract, the key to getting a good price is to buy beans labeled "Grade B" or "extract beans." This simply means they aren't considered to be the pretty beans of the Grade A label. They are only graded for appearance, not for differences in taste.

Slice your vanilla beans lengthwise, exposing the seeds inside. Fill a jar with undiluted rum or vodka. Place vanilla beans inside, cutting them to size if needed for use with shorter jars so that the beans are completely covered by the alcohol. Let sit for 2 months at room temperature to achieve full flavor, although you can begin using the extract as early as 30 days. Keep the extract at room temperature until you use it up; no need to refrigerate.

For a half-pint jar, use 1 bean.
For a pint jar, use 2-3 beans.
For a quart jar, use 5-6 beans.

When the jar is emptied, do not give into the temptation to just refill the jar with alcohol, as the second batch will mold. Don't ask me how I know.

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